O, Christmas Tree

I had a perfectly timely plan that centred around WordPress Wednesday and December 1 (traditional lights-on day) aligning this year.

But life got in the way, so welcome to Thursday, December 2.

At the moment I’m working 14 hour days because of HSC marking at night (and on Saturdays), so very little is getting done at home. This is not good because it’s Christmas lights time.

So on Monday, Miss Almost-23 and I both took a day’s leave and worked on decorating the house. Because it’s the most industrious time of the year.

According to my Facebook memories, her enthusiasm kicked in approximately eight years ago. In response to her sudden self-promotion to Head Elf, her brother apparently announced, “Now there’s two of them everything should get done faster, Dad!”

Now, I know some people have beautifully curated trees and decorative themes, and while this is something to which I’ve always aspired, in reality we’re a little bit closer to the “Christmas threw up on our house” end of the spectrum than I’d like.

This isn’t ours.
Nor is this.

And as much as I annually check out the Balsam Hill site and sigh over pre-lit flip trees, I just don’t feel, as a proud owner of a mortgage or two, that I can justify it quite yet.

Aforementioned Head Elf and the Spousal Unit, however, have both acted as the devil on my shoulder, telling me I need one. Child the Younger, who has thrown to the Grinch side of the family, tried to convince me to instead buy a very economical and pre-decorated one from the discount store where he works. The very concept baffles me, if I’m honest.

Then the Spousal Unit had a moment and told me that he likes “our” tree. I told him I was looking at an additional tree, not a replacement tree, and suddenly he was on board again.

(We have two living areas: a family room and a formal room. If that’s not a recipe for two trees, I don’t know what is!)

You see, the reason we can’t have a beautifully curated colour themed tree like the ones above is that our tree’s “theme” is pretty much the history of us. There are the decorations made by the kids when they were in preschool. Sure, I tuck them away at the back, but they are there. There’s even one that my son made in Science a bit later on.

This isn’t bad, all things considered.
It’s a Santa hat. With crystals on it. He grew the crystals. He was very excited.

There are the decorations made by my friend Jody and my late bonus-mother, Sue.

There are even the clay present tags my niece and nephew made several years back.

But mostly, there are the “special” decorations chosen each year to represent something that’s happened in our lives. The idea is that the kids will eventually take “their” decorations with them, but we don’t seem to be there yet. Possibly because they have a curated, colour-themed tree at the flat. In fact, they also have a matching garland after I stopped in at Bredbo on the way back from a conference two years ago and the lovely staff dutifully went searching for a white garland, which the Head Elf/Child the Elder had, up until then, found elusive.

Significant appreciation for that garland is required. It took effort.

Some of our special decorations date back a long time; others have come a long way. Courtesy of multiple trips to Disneyland, we’re heavy on the Disney decos. That Cheshire Cat was the best surprise though … the smile glows in the dark. Magic.

Each trip, I would ask the kids to pick a decoration. This ranged from the ridiculous (“Really? You want a plastic M and M guitar ornament as a memento of this trip?”) to the sublime (“Well, yes. I do think Baymax tangled up in Christmas lights is the coolest thing ever.”) to the downright dangerous (“Sure. If we wrap that huge, fine, spherical Jack Skellington bauble very, very carefully, we can get it home on the plane in one piece. Probably.”)

Other times, we’d pick something that represented their year: Jamie’s obsession with Cinderella, Robert’s with Angels baseball, Jamie’s “graduation” from high school.

And then there was the time when Rob and I travelled to the States for Ellyn’s wedding. In New York, he found a Minnie Mouse-as-Liberty decoration and asked, “Mum, do you think this would be a good gift for Jamie?”

Why, yes, Son. In fact, it’s perfect.

Speaking of Ellyn, she’s represented, too. Back when she and Jamie were concurrently undertaking dance lessons, I bought some absolutely heinous (in my opinion) pink, glitter, ballet slipper decorations. They both love pink. And glitter. And dance. One slipper hangs on our tree; the matching one was sent to El.

For her part, she sends us representative ones from her state.

Because that’s another thing: when I travel, I try to find a decoration. It started with my Vancouver lights bear. Ros was with me when I bought him, and has of course been on many conferences with me in various places so she knows about this little habit of mine. Which means I have a lot of bonus decorations from when she’s visited Christmas markets in far-flung places.

We also have some matching ones, from joint trips. Matching Texas stars, for example. And also these matching paua shell angels, a personal favourite. Picked up in an airport after believing that perhaps I had missed my chance to find something on that particular trip, and look at her. She’s beautiful.

There are a bunch of decorations from our family travels. We’re missing South Africa and Antarctica, but all the other continents are represented, which is not bad going from our little regional Australian outpost.

It’s pretty much the history of us and our family, both biological and the ones we’ve claimed. And family times – the positive kind! – is what Christmas is all about. And so, from our family to yours, and to quote one of Ellyn’s gifted decorations: Merry Christmas, Y’all.

Wibbly Wobbly Timey Wimey & Henny Penny Messy

Can anyone explain to me how the days are interminable at the moment, but the weeks roll by very quickly?

Not a lot is happening here on Cold Coleman Farm. The cat continues to monitor my work, stopping only to become distressed when her nemesis, a local roaming feline with buckets of attitude and little else to recommend it, harasses her through the front windows. Said feline usually waits until Scout is apoplectic and/or leaping against the glass and smacking her head, then heads into the backyard and starts in on harassing the chickens.

When I chase it away from there, it heads under the back fence to annoy the neighbours’ cat. Those neighbours are homophobic jerks whose kids only seem to communicate by screaming, so I’m OK with that as an outcome. Not that I have any proof that their cat isn’t as horrified by its owners’ attitudes and habits as I am.

The over-the-back-fence neighbours are the reason I had massive marriage equality posters facing into my back yard for a while there.

About the chickens: those little cluckheads have been causing chaos.

I was in a video conference yesterday when I heard a thump. The Spousal Unit also heard it. Neither of us investigated immediately.

Later, I walked past the kitchen door and saw an enormous amount of yolk on the patio and thought one of the chooks had had some kind of severe medical incident. I raced outside, to be greeted by this:

Scrambled eggs, anyone?

Currently, we have no ability to get our excess eggs to our kids, no workplaces in which to offload them, and Facebook Marketplace won’t let words like “eggs” be published in case it’s your own ova you’re trying to sell. So we had about a dozen lying uncollected in the nesting box, another dozen and a half inside, and three dozen or so that I’d brought in in this bucket. The bucket had been out in the coop and there was some wet straw around the eggs and Tony reckoned he could smell it in the kitchen (which was noteworthy in itself – he can be in the same room as a burning dinner and not notice!), so I stuck the bucket on the BBQ and thought I’d get to it later.

The chickens investigated and upended it before I got that far.

I saw the mess, cried out a slight character assassination (the kids next door paused in their loud play; maybe they thought they were the little a***holes in question), and burst out laughing. The clean-up provoked more laughter throughout the afternoon. I was really puzzled as to why I kept finding yolky drips, even elsewhere on the patio.

Turns out that if there’s yolk all over your pressure cleaner wand and you use the pressure cleaner to clean, you also need to clean the pressure cleaner. Who knew?

Same stuff, different day

I haven’t written for a while, but then again, there’s been nothing to say for a while. We’re in Week 2 of regional lockdown, and expecting an announcement tomorrow that it will be extended again. With cases surging in the West and sewage surveillance detection in the South, a pretty-underdone “plan” on the return to school across the state, and daily new cases now above the 900 per day mark, lifting restrictions seems pretty reckless.

So maybe our esteemed government will go ahead and do that, after all.

The NSW government continues to not make a real call about the HSC. They talk about certainty but really, if any Year 12 students gets a positive diagnosis, the whole year group will be out of exams for a fortnight or so. It only runs across four weeks from start to finish and it starts in seven or eight weeks. So proceeding is inherently uncertain and they only way to have certainty would be to say, exams are off and we’ll go by your assessments.

One of the big ideas has been that the students could sit exams outside. I laughed at that one. Better pray for no big winds. Also, I had really bad hay fever during my HSC and I’m thinking that being outside among the pollen probably wouldn’t have helped that situation.

I should add that I sat the HSC at Lithgow High School. My husband delightedly told me that Twitter was alight with people lampooning the “plan,” citing that it had snowed in Lithgow during the HSC last year. I pointed out that we’d had a bushfire during ours. It was a bit distracting when teachers came in and started collecting keys from my peers, so they could move the seniors’ cars before they all became potential bombs.

This is the view from my childhood bedroom window this morning. Quick, set up a desk and a chair and pass out the exam papers!

Closer to home we’ve had bucketing rain and gale-force winds. Thankfully, we had some trees trimmed and used a cherry-picker to take down our advertising banners at the Shoalhaven campus about ten days ago – right about the time lockdown was called.

Photo Credit: Leanne Windsor. NOT taken on campus.

Other than trying to disentangle the mixed messaging of the daily pressers, I’ve been extending my brain by undertaking some online professional development. I’ve done this through two main channels; one formal, and one informal.

First of all, I’ve enrolled in another short course from UNSW’s Australian Graduate School of Management (AGSM). I did one last year during my first WFH period, and the one I’m currently doing (Leading with Resilience) feels much more directly related to my role, so I may redo the budget and explore another option or two later in the year.

Apparently if you do enough short courses you can “stack” them into a certificate. I’m not sure whether I’m keen enough to pursue this option, but I love that it is there.

I’m also currently doing an AGSM leadership course that’s free to alumni, so while they overlap this week and it’s a bit busy, they kind of also fit in well together. The latter has probably ten times more people in it and the synchronous classes are in the evening, so it feels a lot more chaotic than our boutique little one where there are fewer than thirty of us and I’ve probably chatted to most people via breakout room by now.

Apparently resilience largely comes from all the things we’ve been told to do since forever, like eating and sleeping properly, and exercising, and showing ourselves some grace and taking an occasional break. With some actual references and neuroscience to back it up and the accountability of homework, however, I’m paying more attention than when it’s the fad de jour of a women’s magazine. A lifelong insomniac, I moaned about the data on sleep hygiene, because it’s not like I don’t *want* to sleep. Yet I did as I was told and started using a sleep monitoring app. Knowing it’s going to register if I faff around and don’t turn it on until midnight has made a difference. And much to my surprise as someone who rolls my eyes every time the spousal unit talks about meditation or chattering monkeys, I was OK with the pre-sleep meditation loops on the app. I rationalised it away as I had been falling asleep to podcasts, so it was just different talking. And I quickly culled the creepy-sounding bloke for a nice female voice. I suspect I’ve never made it to the end of her reel. But I’ve slept through the entire night twice this week, which probably hasn’t happened since I was like, 5 years old. Or severely jetlagged.

I even managed to sleep through audible wild weather this week, which has not been a thing. Possibly ever.

The informal professional development is taking place in the form of SheMentors, which is a mentoring membership for women.

I’ll admit at first I was completely skeptical, having previously joined something similar that I’d first heard about at my Uni. You paid for each event, you were “matched” with a mentor and placed in a small group for a one-off chat. They also took place in Wollongong (more than an hour away) at 7am, so I had to be up VERY early to facilitate this. In my case, the mentor didn’t understand my context at all, and advised me to take some annual leave in order to meet a writing deadline. The one that is part of my job. She actually told me to use my leave to do my work when I was trying to hold that boundary in the kind of career where boundaries between professional and personal life are already incredibly blurry.

SheMentors and the alternative both involve a fee for mentoring, and at least one senior colleague at Uni was absolutely horrified by this, but I get that businesses need to get money to cover their costs, so I can find a way to live with that.

The cost structure is different at SheMentors. It’s a monthly subscription, so I’ve budgeted that in until the end of the year and will see how I’m going then. It costs what it used to cost me to be a member of a co/writing support group, until their plans and fees all changed. The monthly fee covers up to two mentor hours I book with women who have acumen in areas I’m developing, and I am expected to donate at least one in return. (Side note: I still have slots available for August. So if this is of interest to you–hit me up). There are also lunchtime webinars and social events. So far I’ve been to two of the former and I’m booked in for a new member coffee catch-up.

I’ve had one mentoring session and booked another (with the second mentor being a recommendation from the first, based on our conversation).

First mentoring session, with the lovely Deborah. Pre-lockdown.

So far, I’m finding it to be really helpful.

I’m still an introvert, but–as my classes keep telling me–growth happens just outside of the comfort zone.

Slightly Late Summer of Tennis

It’s a standing joke in my household that Summer is the best time of the year – not because of the weather, but because it’s when Mum is happiest. There are a couple of factors at work here: Christmas and tennis. Oh, and time off with the family, I guess.

My husband finds my delight at watching tennis to be particularly endearing, because he is mad for all sports and I am not. I’m usually the one in the background commentating on the stupidity of the commentators’ comments. Imagine the voice of Blackboard from Mr Squiggle coming out of someone who looks a bit like Mrs Doubtfire these days, and that’s pretty much the mise en scene for most of his sport-watching. Poor thing.

But I actually pay attention to the tennis.

This year, of course, the tennis was delayed and then there was a great deal of unpleasantness, especially in social media, about the international players. I was completely baffled by this, because the main arguments being put forward didn’t hold up to any kind of scrutiny whatsoever. Things I read included “they’re taking the places of Aussies who can’t come home” (they weren’t–they weren’t part of any quota, but were an additional negotiated number of chartered flights and in additional hotels, paid for by Tennis Australia. If anything, as Victorian Premier Dan Andrews pointed out at one stage, having the additional hotels set up and staff trained might allow a loosening of the quota by increasing overall capacity); “I hope they aren’t coming to Sydney” (that was pretty easy to Google, and literally all of the warm-up tournaments except the Adelaide exhibition were moved to Melbourne–and announced–months ago); “they should be tested before they come” (they were –and again on arrival–that’s how our system picked up the new positives. Because it was quite literally working as it should).

But my favourite was a gentleman on social media who decided to get into a stoush with me. His position was, that to make things “fair,” everyone should be quarantined and banned from training.

I pointed out that his suggested solution wouldn’t actually be fair, on a number of counts. First of all, points are accumulated across an entire year, not just a tournament, so people like Ash Barty who chose not to travel earlier in the year but who now have a home advantage and absolutely no need to quarantine, would be unfairly disadvantaged by being forced to quarantine for no apparent reason (on top of already missing two other majors). I can’t imagine how this person would react if he were told he had to self-isolate in hotel quarantine because someone in his company who worked at a different office did, and the company wanted to be “fair.”

On that note, can you imagine telling the likes of Serena Williams or Novak Djokovic that they needed to self-isolate in Adelaide because people on a flight to Melbourne did? I would pay good money to be a fly on the wall for those conversations.

Speaking of Djokovic, he copped a beating in the media for his “entitlement” and “list of demands” to Tennis Australia’s Craig Tiley.

Dude is the Union rep. Taking a list of players’ concerns to their employer. Like many unions reps do, but generally without making the front page.

But to finish the story of the internet troll, I also politely pointed out that elite sportspeople require training and match fitness to avoid injury, so trying to put everyone in a position where they can’t train to be at their best actually isn’t all that “fair” because it puts the overall tournament at risk. Put simply, you need two players per singles match. If you have, say, twice as many athletes pulling out as you usually do, you quickly run the risk of not having two players in each match and therefore eventually being unable to complete all rounds of the tournament. Especially since the number of international players who are here and able to compete is both finite and smaller than usual. There aren’t twenty “journeyman” players hanging around and hoping for a Wild Card or a Lucky Losers’ place. They aren’t even in the country.

He told me that was exactly why he said they should all be banned from training. To increase the number of injuries and the number of forfeited matches is, in his mind, the best, fairest and indeed only course of action.

He then very helpfully told me what I had said, using caps lock, which was odd, because I in fact knew exactly what I had carefully explained. And even if I’d been unsure, I could have just scrolled up, and there it was in black and white! And then he told me I was making an argument that was “academic,” which I gather he thought was an insult. As an actual academic who has coached hundreds if not thousands of students in academic writing, I kind of assume that means my argument was cogent and well-structured.

At that point I stopped replying, but he continued to argue against no one in particular.

Anyway, the Great Tennis Quarantine of 2021 is now over and as of last Friday night, tennis is being played again and most trolls have presumably gone back to offering armchair commentary on other things. Friday night was great. Unfortunately the entire Australian summer of tennis being effectively a whole month late means that this pesky enterprise of holding down a job–and a job that also involves lots of business dinners at this time of year–is interfering with my ability to park myself in front of the telly day and night.

Next week the Open starts and it coincides with my first campus travel in a year. My travels down the coast–which involve every working parent’s dream of staying alone in a motel room–often mean that I get lots of writing done in the evenings. It will be interesting to see the ultimate balance between writing and tennis-watching this time.

Given that I’m back to putting in long Saturdays on writing projects, however, I’m going to try to be OK with whatever that balance works out to be.

I blinked and now it’s December …

In some ways, not much has changed since I last blogged. My oven, for example, is still dodgy.

In other ways, lots has changed. A manager of one of the campuses I oversee has retired, under the Voluntary Early Retirement Scheme offered by the Uni as a response to the fiscal emergency we’re facing as a result of COVID. Others have also left, and there are further redundancies coming early next year. And my boss is leaving to take up options outside of academia. So the sense of impending mass and ugly change hangs heavy around the place, and off-colour jokes about The Hunger Games abound.

On the home front, we’ve got the Christmas lights up with only minimal mutterings about other family members and weight-pulling.

At work, had a bit of a red letter day on Monday when my PhD student submitted her thesis.

As for the book project: well, I’m behind, but the contributors’ chapters are filtering through, so that’s nice motivation and a bit exciting to see the stack of papers grow steadily more book-like.

Gratuitous sexy vampire shot

In the current maelstrom, celebrating these sorts of wins is difficult. But I think maybe that partaking in Christmas traditions and trying to be suitably “festive” is one of the few things we can do to avoid succumbing to the 2020 malaise more fully.

At least, I hope so.

Sleep Deprivation as a way of life …

Once upon a time, I used to like to work some little mildly amusing lines into my 100-word academic bios. These said things like, “and is a mother to two kids, two cats and a couple of very traumatised fish” or “Kimberley holds the view that sleep deprivation isn’t a form of torture, it’s way of life.” I figured that in all likelihood, no one ever read these things, but if someone commented, I’d know they had.

No one ever commented.

Eventually (and quite ironically, in the latter example), I became too tired to even bother attempting humour.

I mention this as I crawl out the other side of a seventeen day marking operation. SEVENTEEN. That’s not counting the Sunday they helpfully told us we could do more “if we chose.”

What we’re talking about here is rearranging my Day Job so that I knock off at 4, then marking onscreen from 4pm-9pm, plus all day Saturdays. Three of ’em. In a row. That’s over a thousand responses to the same question, and you’d better believe that my ability to string together a sentence right about now is badly compromised.

But there is no rest for the wicked. Tomorrow we’re interviewing for a replacement manager, as the farewell festivities for the outgoing one pick up pace. Thanks to COVID, large gatherings aren’t allowed, so there are lots of small sub-farewells. One of them is at my house, which needs to be guest ready by tomorrow night, and kinda isn’t, what with the work hours noted above. But it should be a relaxing night, and my family are voluntarily absenting themselves (well, to be fair; one was never going to be there, another volunteered, so when it got to the third, I just told him he wasn’t welcome!) and then over the next few days the same understanding family are reconvening to start celebrating the Festival of the Husband.

This year is a milestone year, so the Spousal Unit will get a fuss made of him with some beach time and dinners out the weekend before, and then lots of special home-cooked meals the weekend after (which is what he actually asked for; Miss 21 and I do like to show our love via food!), plus a special dinner out on the mid-week actual day. And we’ll use the everyone-home-for–weekend-after-Dad’s-birthday opportunity to set up our annual Christmas display.

Shhhhh.

So I told Mr 19 that while I know he has work shifts that weekend, I expect Full Elf Mode in between.

Quick as a whip, he retorted: “Fifty per cent. Take it or leave it.”

Full Elf Mode in Action

I did try to negotiate, but he wasn’t having it. I’m not overly worried. Judging by these photos, I reckon he’ll be able to find more Christmas spirit than he currently anticipates. He’s got 37 days.

It’s not like he has a lot of choice, living in our house.

Big world news, and small local annoyances

I’m enormously distracted today by the US election. As I begin to write this, polls have closed in Indiana and Kentucky, another half dozen or so close in a few minutes, and some bellwether seats close half an hour later, with massive numbers in an hour or so.

Closer to home, I’m trying to manage some of the repairs and little jobs that are hangovers from the great make-hay-while-the-pandemic’s-on strategy of 2020, but I’m now (a) back in the office and (b) HSC marking nights and weekends, meaning I’m out of the house at least 13 hours per day and not therefore not around to deal with tradies, or even to let them in.

And, as it turns out, occasionally we still find people who just don’t want to work. Living in a regional area after almost thirty years of a booming economy in Australia means that there can be a distinct lack of competition in certain areas and some people have never known hard times, which can cause some really odd attempts at customer service. In the two decades we’ve been living in our current area I have to say we’ve seen marked improvements in customer service, and for the most part it’s now as good as you’d get anywhere, but occasionally we get a throwback. My personal favourite was when I contacted Shoalhaven Pest Control because I had pests (rats) in my roof. My roof is in the Shoalhaven. The reply I got via email was very honest: “I just don’t want this job.”

Last week, it was Kevin. Kevin, to quote my husband, is “just a prick.”

The seal on our oven is about as complete as the one in this picture. It’s hanging off at the top, and it’s hanging off at the bottom, and the oven takes a long time to heat up and doesn’t retain heat, which I’m pretty sure is not coincidental.

Kevin, who hasn’t looked at the current state of the seal, reckons it’s coincidental.

Once upon a time, I was away for work and Tony rang me in a panic because the handle had fallen off the oven. I pointed out I couldn’t fix it from miles away, and suggested he ring the local oven repair guy, who was advertising his services on a big green sign hanging off the pool company fence. So Tony went for a drive to the pool company, got the number off the fence, rang the guy, and he came and put the handle back on.

Neither of them apparently noticed the dodgy seal, which admittedly wasn’t as bad then as it is now, but let’s just say there was a reason I’d paid attention to the big green sign in the first place.

So I googled the company when I was home on leave a bit over a week ago, and up popped the Yellow Pages site with a mobile number and a “press to send an email” button. I rang the number. No answer. I left a message. I rang another three times in the space of a week, but no answer. I sent a message via the big “send an email” button, too. I persisted because (a) I need the oven fixed, (b) he’d been out to our place before when the oven door handle fell off and (c) the only reason I contacted Shoalhaven Pest Control that time was because our regular guy wasn’t answering his phone, but he did answer when I rang the next week. There’s no way to out an out of office reply on a mobile, I guess, and so I thought it was worth persisting, just in case he had been away, but was now back.

On the fourth try, he answered.

He didn’t identify himself or anything, but he answered. I only know that Kevin is a Kevin because of his reviews on the Yellow Pages site. Which we’ll get to.

So I began, telling him I had been looking for someone to fix an oven seal.

Kevin: “So you’ve been looking and not found anyone?”

I said, “yes.”

Now, I was definitive because I thought I knew the answer. But the whole conversation was like sitting a test for which I hadn’t studied, because apparently every answer I gave was wrong according to Kevin’s answer sheet.

Kevin had a follow-up: “who’ve you tried?” Which honestly, seemed a bit weird if I was calling him, but hey. Again, I answered truthfully.

“Actually,” I said, “I’ve called this number four times, and sent an email.”

Well, that set him off. “WHY would you keep calling?” he demanded. “Why would you call four times?”

Me: “Because I want my oven fixed.”

He persisted, “why would you call four times if you got no answer?”

I tried to explain that his was the only business that came up when I googled, and that he’d been out before. So he changed tack: “Did you leave a message?”

Me: “the first time, I did, yes.”

So then he asked when I’d called. I said the first call was last Friday. He seemed surprised I had answers to these questions, which were asked in an interrogatory tone. I had the impression he thought I was lying throughout the entire conversation.

So then he asked the name of our suburb and I told him: Bangalee.

He demanded verification that he’d been out there before. Asked me if how I could be sure it was him.

I said, “Well, if it was you that had the big green sign on the pool company fence, then you came and worked on this oven previously.”

He conceded that that was him, but then asked in a kind of sarcastic-aggressive tone, “And did I fix it?”

Me, deadpan: “Well, yes.” I mean seriously, Dude: if you hadn’t, I really wouldn’t call you four times. Or even once.

I asked, where do we go from here, but he was distracted by another trigger word he suddenly recalled: email.

“I never got an email,” he declared.

“Oh, ” I said. “Ok. Well, I pressed the button on the Yellow Pages site. I have it open in front of me.”

“Yellow Pages” was apparently a big trigger. He started yelling, “That’s false advertising! That’s false advertising! I’m not listed with Yellow Pages!” This confused the hell out of me, because I had his Yellow Pages listing open on my screen at the time. I tried to tell him that I had it open and it was his business name and the number I was currently calling him on, but he kept yelling about false advertising and not being registered. Which was doubly puzzling, because there was no advertising involved. At all. Yellow Pages, like White Pages, is, after all, just a list of numbers.

“False advertising”

Nevertheless, I tried to redirect him, asking, “well, where do we go from here?”

But like a dog chained to his own vomit, he kept going back to the Yellow Pages and the no messages and the non-existent email. Seven times he told me he’d never had a message from Bangalee. I counted. And I did try to ignore the stupidity of this assertion, I really did, but in the end I couldn’t help but point out the obvious.

“You know, when I left the message, I left my name, not my suburb. Did that not occur to you?”

He asked, “Why are you being like this, so, so — you’re just not getting it. I’m not with the Yellow Pages.”

Me: “You’re the one wanting to talk about the Yellow Pages. I’m not sure how that’s pertinent to me actually getting my oven fixed.”

Kevin: “Huh? What does that mean? Why are you being like this? So- so-?” He didn’t have a word for the “this.” But I did.

Me: “You don’t think you’ve been at all abrasive in this conversation?”

Him: “WELL I’M NOT IN THE YELLOW PAGES! IT’S FALSE ADVERTISING! OH, AND NOW I’VE MISSED MY TURN-OFF!”

Unsure how that was my problem, exactly, I took another very deep breath. “If you can’t do the job and you know someone else who can, I’d be really happy to take that recommendation.”

He asked again, “why are you being like this?”

By this stage, I’m looking for the hidden camera because I appear to have slipped into a Monty Python sketch.

Mandatory Credit: Photo by Jeff Gilbert/Shutterstock (10437343k) Guiness world record attempt for the largest gathering of people dressed as gumbys. The event formed the start of the offical 50th anniversary celebrations of Monty Python which took place at the Roundhouse theatre Gumbys Monty Python Event, Roundhouse Theatre, Camden Town, London, UK – 05 Oct 2019

Another deep breath: “You seem to be making out that you not getting my messages is somehow all my fault. And I really just want to know how to move forward and organise to get you to look at the oven.”

So then he decides to go for broke in the blaming me stakes: “You must be having a bad day or something.”

Me: “Well, I wasn’t before this conversation.”

(Which was 100% true, by the way. I’d just signed another book contract that morning. It’d been a relatively cruisey day at work.)

Kevin: “Look, I’m at another job now. You’ll have to email me the details.”

Me: “I can’t email you. I don’t have your email address. All I have is the big button on the Yellow Pages site, and you’ve been very clear that it doesn’t work.”

Kevin: “I’M NOT WITH YELLOW PAGES! WHY CAN’T YOU GET THIS? JUST EMAIL ME.”

Me: “I don’t have your email address.”

Him: Look, I’m at another job. Just email me.

Um, Kevin? It’s not me who’s “not getting it,” Honey.

At this point, I hung up on him and rang my husband, since he’d managed to speak enough Kevin-ese to successfully book a job previously.

“Maybe it’s because I don’t have a penis?” I suggested. “Maybe he’s a misogynist?”

Tony rang me back about half an hour later. “He’s not coming,” he said. “I thought I had him, but then he announced it’s Friday afternoon, and it’s probably not the seals, it’s probably the switch, and we should ring the manufacturer.”

Right. I’m sure the manufacturer will want to deal with “the switch” on our nine year old oven, and be convinced that the non-sealing seals are absolutely irrelevant to a problem with sealing in heat.

Me: “So not a misogynist; just a misanthrope?”

Husband: “I think he’s just a prick. Sometimes he wants the work and so he’s nice; other times he doesn’t, so he acts like this.”

I said, actually, that’s pretty much what the reviews on the Yellow Pages said. Later, I wondered if the reviews were the “false advertising” he was getting so damn upset about. Maybe I should just pop a link to this on the Yellow Pages reviews section?

In the meantime, if anyone has any recommendations on someone-other-than-Kevin who can replace an oven seal, I’m still very happy to receive them. But please, please, PLEASE don’t tell me to teach myself via YouTube. Between my day job and night-marking (and all-day Saturday marking), I’m more than OK with not learning any new skills for the next few weeks.

Plus, there’s election coverage to watch.

Done!

The Painting is finished! (Well, almost. I have a couple of touch-ups to do, but only a few minutes’ work at best).

This has been quite the pandemic project. Obviously from the size of Jamie and Robert in the photos, you can see that the kitchen reno was done some time ago. The painting in the flaky bedroom began at Easter. Since then, I’ve done almost every wall and ceiling in the place (the only exceptions being the bits Jamie did when she came home).

The ensuite reno did involve some paid tradies, but otherwise it’s been done by the Colewomen.

Now, onto my big plans for the garden …

Over It: the HSC, Higher Ed reforms, and Home Renovations

This made me laugh when I checked social media this morning:

EIGHT years on … and … still painting …

… and then I got out of bed and painted a ceiling before I showered, had breakfast, and started my workday!

Here it is: the LAST room in progress. And it needs to progress fast, because my husband is currently sleeping in my daughter’s bed, my clothes are all around me, one child has announced he’s coming home today and the other one says she’s home tomorrow. So if this doesn’t get done in the next day and a half, we are looking at a long weekend (yay!) with more people than beds (boo!).

I don’t think that would make me very popular, somehow.

My Facebook memories tell me that I have been using these September school holidays to work on stuff around the home for a very long time. More than one home, in fact. This is the third one. Nine years ago, I was mid-meltdown over the delayed kitchen. This is what it looked like one day after it was meant to be finished:

Most definitely not finished.

Bizarrely, if your look where the fridge is meant to be, they’d capped off the taps and outlet from the old sink, but left the washing machine taps where they were. So Jody and I somehow managed to lift the washing machine back inside and hook it up for a little while.

Because every kitchen needs a washing machine.

It looks a lot better now. I’ve been meaning to get an “After” photo, but the kitchen is not currently tidy enough for that and I’m, you know, painting ceilings and walls before and after work, so most things around here are only getting untidier!

Focusing on renovations has been a helpful distraction because the higher education sector has been having a tough time of it. At our institution, we are all now on reduced pay, and waiting to hear which of our colleagues have been granted an early retirement package. As if that didn’t bring enough uncertainty into attempts at future planning, we’re waiting to hear the fate of the higher education reforms package, which seems likely to go back to the Senate in early November. All of this sees me dragging my feet and prioritising things like painting and blogging over finalising the agenda for our planning day, which is next week.

Overnight we learned that one of the two cross bench Senators who will ultimately decide the fate of the package has pointed out the inequity baked into it and decided not to support it. I felt an overwhelming sense of relief and peace when I read the news–most un-2020 of me. Of course, there is still one undecided vote, and so the legislation may still be passed. I’ve listened to all the arguments for and against, but at the end of the day, I keep thinking of the current Year 12. Not the ones in the news for off-colour scavenger hunts (they are over-privileged drongos, pure and simple, and I refuse to give them cyber-column inches) but the bulk of the 70 000 or so of them who started their Senior year in a smoke-hazed apocalyptic landscape, who’ve spent much of their final year largely out of the classroom because of a pandemic, and who now have to sit their exams and try to get into Uni as though it were any other year. Mind you, they are also potentially facing tougher competition for entry: with high youth unemployment, the first recession in a generation, and a practical inability to take a gap year when travel is off the table and casual employment is hard to come by, we are seeing in early admissions and application data what we always see in recessions: that our young people are turning to the relative safe haven of higher education to up-skill and ride out the worst of the unemployment rises.

Year 12 who, at this point, don’t know whether their degrees are going to cost them what they thought they would when they applied, or some new amount decided by legislation between the times of application and enrollment. Their exams start in a fortnight. By the time the Senate decides what their degrees will cost next year, I’ll be marking the papers that generate their ability to matriculate.

And no matter how you cut it, that seems to me to be profoundly unfair.

I’m late, I’m late

… for WordPress Wednesday. Clearly I need to update my calendar and pop my blogging spots back in there so that I can chase them around the page as other meetings pop up!

I have managed to put “writing sprint” times in there for about a fortnight, so there’s that. The “Writing Sprint” idea comes from Academic Writing Coach Cathy Mazak. Basically, you block out an hour or two (or in my case, 1.5) each workday for a fortnight, just to focus on one writing project. I popped this in to my diary at the start of last week, because I felt I had hit a COVID-wall and my motivation was lacking and my writing wheels spinning. My original plan was to use it to get somewhere with our Vampire Diaries project. Which I did, in fact, start (well, I rounded up my notes into one spot–they were previously in numerous folders on internal and external hard drives, and a rogue thumb drive). But then a week ago I received a list of further suggested revisions from the Revise and Resubmit I was so happy to get off my desk earlier. So I changed gear, which is probably not really what the Writing Sprint is about. I was pretty cranky that I only had a week to do the extra revisions, but then I got some advice from another academic, got over myself and did it in three days.

So for the last two, I’ve been back to focussing on Tyler Lockwood.

He never looks this cool and calm in the show.

For this book project, I originally wrote a chapter about masculinity and the adolescent/lycanthropic transformation of high school jock Tyler Lockwood in The Vampire Diaries television series. (In the books, he was called Tyler Smallwood, but apparently that would have been *ahem* unpalatable for contemporary YA TV!). Thing is, it’s been a record-breaking number of years since that piece was accepted, so now it needs some pretty major revisions prior to publication. Back then, The Originals sequel, in which Tyler featured, wasn’t even an idea! I’m currently reviewing scenes from a decade ago to remind myself of the finer details of his origins storyline, but the bulk of the update will come in tracking how his character developed after the original time of writing (hint: significantly).

When I’m working on any piece, I use a wallpaper of the cast or character as a means of silently nagging myself. The image above is what is currently on my homescreens. Believe me when I say that after a while you just want to finish the writing project in order to be able to change the screen to something less guilt-inducing.

On the home project front, things are going much slower, but deliberately so. With just the main bedroom left to paint and only a couple of days of the school tern left, we’ve agreed that I’ll leave my husband alone to limp through to the end of the week with his room undisturbed. Then I’ll attack and finish it in the school holidays, when he’s rebooting. Depending on how my work juggle goes and if I can sneak in a day or two of leave myself, we might even be able to get in some gardening time after that.

In the meantime, I’m trying to “redo” some of the chaotic areas of my home. After six months of nothing being in quite the right place, I’m ready to do a major Spring clean, I think.

If it seems as though I’ve been renovating forever, then prepare yourselves for these “on this day” memories from NINE years ago. Nine!

Basically, we’d agreed that the whole new kitchen thing would happen–you guessed it–in the September holidays. Tony was taking the kids to QLD to see his parents (those were the days!) and I was going to supervise the project. To save money, I was going to do my own demolition and I thought I’d get a head start on it the last few days of term.

So he came home late one night and the pantry, rangehood, and cupboard doors were gone. Our fridge was already outside on the verandah where it had lived since we move in, in March of 2007–because it didn’t fit in our tiny kitchen.

The next day, the kids (then in Primary school) wanted to do more. I unhooked the oven and we wrestled it outside to sit on the front lawn, awaiting the rubbish removal folks. Then they asked wasn’t the wall coming down, too?

None of this cutting whole sheets out for us, oh no. Armed with a domestic hammer, we started taking it out, each piece about the size of a twenty cent piece.

Tony came home from work and found Rob delightedly swinging a hammer at the wall. He looked at me, stunned. “I thought you were getting a bloke in to do that?” he asked.

Ten-year-old-Rob turned to him with a big grin and announced with perfect comic timing: “I AM the bloke!”

Tony helped me get the washing machine outside before they headed North. And then various hijinks ensued with some tradies not turning up when they were supposed to, and others saying they couldn’t proceed until the missing ones did their bit, and me sitting here by myself in a shell, surviving on BBQed food and takeaway, with all my loungeroom furniture on the back patio and no water in the centre of the house. My dear mate Jody called and heard the distress in my voice over the phone, and said, “I can be there in two hours.” She drove down from Sydney, helped me wrestle the washing machine back into the house so I could at least do laundry, and camped here with me.

By the time Tony and the kids got home, it was all done and I had all the furniture back in place. I don’t think I’d be physically capable of the latter feat now. The muscle aches and back pain alone have meant it’s taken me this long just to paint, with no demo. Recovering after each room takes longer than recovering from minor surgery would have when I was younger!

So, I am very much looking forward to finishing this all up, and then not doing any more work inside the house this year. We’ve still got some longer term plans and there’s plenty to do in the yard, but for now: the end is in sight.

And a good thing, too, because I’ve got writing to do!